Fast and Female / Running

Fast and Female: the importance of positive role models and the powerful impacts of sport

I can never really remember a time that I wasn’t involved in some sort of athletic activity. I grew up on a street full of kids and it seemed like we were always outside playing. There was a big park a few blocks from my house and I have great memories of skating and tobogganing there in the winter, and flying kites and kicking around a soccer ball in the summer. Organized sports started with soccer when I was three, ballet when I was four, and when I moved from Winnipeg to Regina it wasn’t long before I started playing basketball and doing Irish dance. I played soccer and softball for a few years, snowboarded, surfed, took swimming lessons, played volleyball, did some triathlons, and was part of a skipping club for a little while. I started cross-country skiing the year I turned 16, and quickly fell in love with it, wishing I had been introduced to the sport earlier. And, of course, I also ran cross-country and track.

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{ Summertime in Winnipeg }

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{ Running was always my strong suit in any sport I played }

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{ Cross Country Ski Nationals 2008 }

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{ Remembering some of my skipping club skills – jumping rope with my brother at the community centre in Nicaragua. }

I went to my first track practice when I was 11, treating it as extra conditioning for basketball. Before that practice was over I think I knew deep down that running would become something much more to me than conditioning for other sports. I don’t remember my first day of basketball, my first day of softball, soccer or really any other sport I did for that matter. (The one exception is cross-country skiing and I think I mostly remember that first practice because I fell down over 50 times in the span of an hour.) That first day of track practice however, I remember perfectly. I remember running around the 1.25km loop in Douglas Park and feeling amazing, wondering why I had never done this before. I remember my mom picking me up and asking me how it went, and me telling her all about it and how much I loved it. It’s amazing to think that this one day would turn out to have such a significant impact on my future.

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{ My first national team. World Cross Country Championships 2007 – Mombasa, Kenya }

14 years later, my love for the sport has only grown. I can’t imagine my life without running. It provided me with a college education, introduced me to some amazing individuals, including my best friends, and has allowed me to travel all over the world. The incredible opportunities I experienced as a result of participating in sport are only a very small part of what sport has given me. It has taught me about cooperation and teamwork, self-discipline and leadership skills. Through sport I learned how to set and achieve goals and how to draw motivation from within myself. I learned about proper nutrition so that I could stay healthy and strong and perform my best. I learned how to listen to my body, to know when to push through minor aches and pains and when I needed to back off or get some outside help. The confidence I got from athletics translated to my life outside of sports.

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{ A day of fun and games in Kenya }

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{ My international sisters and best friends }

A few of these things I figured out on my own, but like most other things I’ve learned in life, the majority of this knowledge was passed on to me from others. Whether it was an older teammate, a coach, or my parents, each contributed something to make me the person I am today. I feel extremely fortunate to have so many positive role models in my life and I hope to one day be able to have the type of impact on someone that they each had on me.

One of my biggest role models is Chandra Crawford. At 21 Chandra started Fast and Female, a non-profit organization that works to empower and inspire girls through sport. At 22 she became an Olympic champion, winning the skate sprint at the Torino games. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about her standing on the podium singing Oh Canada. THIS is how it should always be done. One year later I met Chandra at my first Fast and Female event. I was lucky enough to be one of twelve girls selected from across Canada (based on essays we had written on what it meant to us to be fast and female) that received subsidized travel and accommodation to attend a Fast and Female event held in Canmore. That event and entire weekend had a huge impact on my life and athletic career. Watching Chandra and her teammates interact with all the girls at the event really opened my eyes to how I could use my athletic pursuits for more than just my own achievements. This group of women, all world class athletes, were some of the most down to earth people I’d ever met. They were the definition of positive female role models. I also met some pretty awesome girls my own age that were passionate about a healthy, happy, active lifestyle. With the increase in social media tools I have been able to follow some of these girls and can see that many of them have continued to “spread the love” and are doing amazing and exciting things with their lives, both athletically and otherwise. I can say with a strong degree of certainty that all of these girls would agree that Fast and Female had a big impact on their lives as well.

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{ Practicing tucking technique with Chandra. }

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{ The 12 girls and our host family sisters! }

It’s been over 8 years since I traveled to Canmore for my first Fast and Female event and I am thrilled to now be a part of the Fast and Female family as an ambassador for track and field! I will be taking part in the 2015 Calgary Summit on November 8th, and can’t wait to participate in my first Fast and Female event from the other side of things – working to inspire and empower the next generation of young female athletes, sharing with them the many positive things I have gained from sport.

Check out Fast and Female for more information on upcoming events across Canada, bio’s on all the amazing ambassadors, and how they are working to “Spread the love!” and “Dominate the world!”.

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2 thoughts on “Fast and Female: the importance of positive role models and the powerful impacts of sport

  1. Jess, I don’t think I know a more dedicated or deserving athlete than you. We are in your corner, cheering for you!! love auntie kim and uncle paul.

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